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Language, narrative and literacy in video game play

, State University of New York at Buffalo, United States

State University of New York at Buffalo . Awarded


This study examines the use of language and narrative in recreational digital entertainment software and how consistent usage habits may merit the term “literacy”. Despite a long history of research in the area and a recent research explosion in the field, exploration into the single player adventure game has received little attention. In order to learn more about the learning processes experienced by game players, four high school students played a common game with a researcher who carried out a talk-along interview during each play session. With recordings of the game play, video tapes of the game play, interviews on either side of play, and artifacts created on their own, the students revealed consistent patterns showing how they learned to play the game. Language usage proves to fall into two categories: instructional and fictional, where instructional language teaches the game's tools and devices, whereas fictional language tells a narrative that gives meaning to the problems players are forced to struggle through. The research shows that all players eventually play in a very similar way despite differences in past experience, but that experienced players reach this style quicker, probably because of lessons learned from past games. New players, on the other hand, reach this level of proficiency only through closely following the game's embedded texts, left along the way by designers motivated to help players learn to play the game. The conclusions suggest that research is called for regarding how this play-based learning can be applied to classroom project design and increased work with performance literature, such as drama, in the classroom.


Corrigall, S. Language, narrative and literacy in video game play. Ph.D. thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo. Retrieved March 25, 2019 from .

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